Although it has become a fashionable sport for the middle class, in India the mind and muscle game of the golfing greens has yet to acquire the mass popularity it has attained abroad. Golf courses are relatively scarce, and playing equipment is expensive. Hence the total number of golfers countrywide is estimated at a mere 450,000.
Nevertheless within the small national pool of golf aficionados, some bright stars have emerged. Indian golfers such as Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh have begun to make their presence felt on the international professional golfing circuit.
Another golfer of great promise and potential is Bangalore-based Sharmila Nicollet (16). This class IX student of the Bangalore International School was recently (August 2005) adjudged the â€˜longest hitterâ€™ during the national championship at Kolkata. The tall and lanky teenager, with a plus three handicap, presented a stiff challenge to the best women golfers in the country.
Although sheâ€™s been playing for just over three years, Sharmila has participated in 12 national and three international tournaments, winning plaudits and prizes. Notable among the youngsterâ€™s golfing triumphs are second place in Junior National Championships 2004, and International Junior Golf Championship 2005 in Pakistan, third place in international junior golf meets in Bangkok and Indonesia (2004), among others.
But success has a price. "I practice three hours everyday after school and during weekends I spend at least six-eight hours on the greens," says Sharmila.
Golf is not the only sport in which this sporty teenager has excelled. She is a former national sub-junior swimming champ with over 72 gold and silver medals won in state and national aquatic meets in her trophy cabinet. "I had to choose my sport and have given up competitive swimming and athletics to excel in golf," says Sharmila, acknowledging consistent encourage-ment and support from her parents Surekha, a perfume company director and Marc, a software professional.
The spunky teenager has set her sights firmly on the professional international womenâ€™s circuit. "I intend to go to the US for higher education where Iâ€™ll be able to get into the professional circuit after expert coaching. My immediate aim is to improve my swing and short game, so I can get back into the top ranks in India," she says.
Quite obviously, a teenager who has road-mapped her future carefully.
Srinidhi Raghavendra (Bangalore)
That 13-year-old Pradnya Wadia studies in class IX at Mumbaiâ€™s Canossa Convent comes as a surprise, considering that the average age of students in this class is 14-15. Details of her science project, which won her the coveted Outstanding Project Award at the Intel Science Talent Discovery Fair staged in Bangalore from December 7-12, 2005 are even more impressive.
Organised by Intel Inc, the worldâ€™s premier manufacturer of computer hardware, networking and communi-cations products, this is a competitive countywide festival of scientific talent of school students who present research projects in mathematics, science and engineering. This year 109 projects were submitted by students studying in classes IX-XII. Pradnyaâ€™s entry was in the category of environment sciences. "My experiment which was on display, demonstrated a process of multiplying micro-organisms present in the soil to reduce pesticides usage," she says. "Not only does this process degrade pesticides, the micro-organisms are effective as manure when they perish and also break down pesticides into carbon and energy for plant life."
Pradnyaâ€™s research project which was prompted by news reports of farmers in Punjab taking ill after drinking water contaminated with pesticide residue, received the enthusiastic encouragement of her mother Pratima, a teacher at Canossa Convent, and skilled guidance from her father Ashok, a professor of microbiology at Mumbaiâ€™s well-known Jai Hind College. "I did all my research from textbooks and the internet. I also conducted small experiments at home using farm soil, pesticides and an aeration pump for the oxydising process," she explains.
Although the project won her an award and many encomiums from the panel of distinguished judges, Pradnya is not quite done with it. The father-daughter duo has prepared a handbook for Indian farmers, explaining how to replicate this process in their fields. "We have contacted the state governmentâ€™s ministry of agriculture to print and disseminate this handbook free of charge. The outcome of my project is very satisfying, because it provides a simple solution to pesticide pollution. I really hope it will help farmers struggling against the consequences of pesticide over-use in rural India," says young Pradnya, displaying wisdom and compassion beyond her years.
Gaver Chatterjee (Mumbai)